Education guide - Better Access to mental health care for eligible health professionals

Information about services eligible health professionals can provide to patients under the Better Access initiative.

The purpose of the Better Access initiative is to improve treatment and management of mental illness within the community. Better Access aims to provide patients with access to mental health professionals and team-based mental health care. Under this initiative, Medicare benefits are available to patients for selected mental health services provided by:

  • general practitioners (GPs)
  • non-vocationally recognised medical practitioners (non-VR MPs)
  • psychiatrists
  • clinical psychologists
  • registered psychologists
  • appropriately trained social workers and occupational therapists.

Make sure you read the relevant Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) item descriptions, fact sheets and explanatory notes at MBS Online.

Information for eligible practitioners

GP and non-VR MP services under Better Access

GPs and non-VR MPs can claim these MBS items in general practice. Specialists or consultant physicians can’t claim them.

The term ‘GP’ in the item descriptions is used as a generic reference to medical practitioners eligible to claim these items.

Under Better Access, practitioners can provide and claim for the services in the tables below.

You should register with us if you’ve completed the mental health skills training accredited by the General Practice Mental Health Standards Collaboration. Once you’ve registered, you can provide GP FPS services.

Note: the COVID-19 Temporary MBS Telehealth Services for mental health items are available until 30 June 2021.

Service Face-to-face and telehealth MBS items Temporary COVID-19 telehealth MBS items Temporary COVID-19 telephone MBS items Frequency
Prepare a GP mental health treatment plan (GPMHTP) 272 276
281-282
2700-2701
2715 2717
92112-92113
92116-92119
92122-92123
92124-92125
92128-92131
92134-92135
  • Practitioners can use these items once every 12 months
  • Practitioners can’t use these items within 3 months of using a review item.
Review a mental health treatment plan 277 2712 92114
92120
92126
92132
  • Practitioners can use these items once every 3 months
  • Practitioners can’t use these items within 4 weeks of claiming a GPMHTP item.
Manage a patient’s mental health condition 279 2713 or a general consultation item 92115
92121
92127
92133
  • Practitioners can use these items as often as necessary. There are no restrictions.
Provide initial focused psychological strategies (FPS) services  283-287
371-372
2721-2731
91818-91819
91820-91821
91842-91843
91844-91845
  • Practitioners can use these items up to 10 times every 12 months.

Note: Eligibility requirements for Better Access were expanded from 10 December 2020 to allow aged care residents access to Medicare subsidised psychological services each calendar year.

Service Face-to-face and telehealth MBS items Temporary COVID-19 telehealth MBS items Temporary COVID-19 telephone MBS items Frequency
Prepare a GP mental health treatment plan (GPMHTP) 93400-93403
93431-93434
93404-93407
93435-93438
93408-93411
93439-93442
  • Practitioners can use these items once every 12 months
  • Practitioners can’t use these items within 3 months of using a review item.
Review a mental health treatment plan 93421
93451
93422
93452
93423
93453
  • Practitioners can use these items once every 3 months
  • Practitioners can’t use these items within 4 weeks of claiming a GPMHTP item.
Provide initial focused psychological strategies (FPS) services  371-372
941-942
2729-2731
2733-2735
91818-91819
91820-91821
91842-91843
91844-91845
  • Practitioners can use these items up to 10 times every 12 months.

Additional access to mental health treatment

You can refer your patients for up to 10 additional mental health treatment sessions covered by Medicare. Your patient is eligible for the sessions if all of the following apply:

  • they’ve got a current mental health treatment plan
  • they’ve used all of their previous Medicare covered sessions
  • they’ve had a review with their referring practitioner.

Practitioners can provide and claim for the services in the tables below.

Service Face-to-face and telehealth MBS items Temporary COVID-19 telehealth MBS items Temporary COVID-19 telephone MBS items Frequency
Provide additional focused psychological strategies (FPS) services 93300
93303
93306
93309
93301
93304
93307
93310
93302
93305
93308
93311
  • Practitioners can use these items up to 10 times every 12 months.
Provide additional focused psychological strategies (FPS) services to an aged care resident 93287-93288
93291-93292
93301
93304
93307
93310
93302
93305
93308
93311
  • Practitioners can use these items up to 10 times every 12 months.

Patient eligibility for mental health treatment

GPMHTPs and review services are available to:

  • patients in the community
  • private in-patients, including residents of aged care facilities being discharged from hospital
  • residents of aged care facilities not admitted to hospital.

To be eligible, a patient must both:

  • have a mental disorder
  • be likely to benefit from a structured approach to the management of their care needs.

Referred mental health services

Once you've completed a GPMHTP you can refer your patient for a range of mental health services, including:

  • psychological therapy services performed by a clinical psychologist
  • allied health FPS services performed by a registered psychologist, occupational therapist or social worker
  • FPS services performed by another practitioner with appropriate training.

You can also refer your patient for these services if you’re managing them under either a:

  • referred psychiatrist assessment and management plan
  • shared care plan.

Certain allied health services require that the patient’s care is being managed under a:

  • GP Management Plan and Team Care Arrangements
  • GPMHTP or shared care plan.

A health professional may develop a shared care plan for a patient enrolled under the Health Care Home trial.

Referral format and content

There's no standard form for referrals. You can refer patients for allied mental health services with a signed and dated letter.

The referral should include:

  • name
  • date of birth
  • address
  • the patient’s symptoms or diagnosis
  • the number of treatment services the patient needs to receive
  • a statement about whether the patient has a GPMHTP, shared care plan or a psychiatrist assessment and management plan.

Referral course of treatment

The number of services stated in the patient's referral is a course of treatment.

The maximum number of sessions a medical practitioner can include on a referral for each course of treatment is:

  • 6 sessions for the initial 10 services
  • 10 sessions for the additional 10 services.

A patient can have 2 or more courses of treatment within their calendar year limit of up to 20 services.

Patients need a new referral for each course of treatment.

Referral validity

Referrals are valid for the number of services shown on the practitioner’s referral letter or note. Patients who have unused services at the end of the calendar year can use them the next year without a new referral.

Allied health professionals must keep copies of referrals for 2 years.

Calendar year claiming limits for mental health services

In a calendar year, patients can receive psychological therapy and/or FPS services up to the combined limit of:

  • 20 individual services
  • 10 group services.

A calendar year is from 1 January to 31 December.

The limit of 20 individual and 10 group services can include:

  • face-to-face consultations
  • telehealth consultations
  • a combination of face-to-face and telehealth consultations.

Billing a GP mental health treatment service

To determine which item applies when billing a GP mental health treatment service either:

  • ask the patient if they have a copy of the previous GPMHTP
  • with the patient’s permission, ask their previous practitioner for a copy.

You can review a patient’s previous plan if it’s been in place for more than 4 weeks.

Only prepare a GPMHTP if you're the patient’s usual practitioner and expect to continue managing their condition.

Confirming mental health items and limits

You can use the MBS items online checker and the patient care plan history search in HPOS to:

  • view and check patient eligibility based on their MBS history
  • check your own eligibility for claiming MBS items
  • check claiming conditions for MBS items.

Or you can call us to check:

  • if a patient has claimed a GPMHTP
  • how many allied mental health services the patient has already received in the calendar year
  • which MBS item you can bill if your patient’s clinical condition or care circumstances have changed significantly.

Information for allied health professionals

Allied mental health services and MBS items

To be an eligible allied health professional, you must both:

  • meet the eligibility criteria
  • have a Medicare provider number.

Under Better Access, eligible allied health professionals can provide the services in the tables below.

Note: the COVID-19 Temporary MBS Telehealth Services for mental health items are available until 30 June 2021.

Clinical psychologists - Psychological therapy services

Sessions Face-to-face-and telehealth MBS items Temporary COVID-19 telehealth MBS items Temporary COVID-19 telephone MBS items
initial 80000-80015 91166-91167 91181-91182
additional 93330
93333
93331
93334
93332
93335
group 80020-80021 n/a n/a

Registered psychologist - FPS services

Sessions Face-to-face-and telehealth MBS items Temporary COVID-19 telehealth MBS items Temporary COVID-19 telephone MBS items
initial 80100-80115 91169-91170 91183-91184
additional 93350
93353
93351
93354
93352
93355
group 80120-80121 n/a n/a

Occupational therapists - FPS services

Sessions Face-to-face-and telehealth MBS items Temporary COVID-19 telehealth MBS items Temporary COVID-19 telephone MBS items
initial 80125-80140 91172-91173 91185-91186
additional 93356
93359
93357
93360
93358
93361
group 80145-80146 n/a n/a

Social workers - FPS services

Sessions Face-to-face-and telehealth MBS items Temporary COVID-19 telehealth MBS items Temporary COVID-19 telephone MBS items
initial 80150-80165 91175-91176 91187-91188
additional 93362
93365
93363
93366
93364
93367
group 80170-80171 n/a n/a

Eligibility requirements for Better Access were expanded from 10 December 2020 to allow aged care residents access to Medicare subsidised psychological services each calendar year.

Clinical psychologists - Psychological therapy services

Sessions Face-to-face-and telehealth MBS items Temporary COVID-19 telehealth MBS items Temporary COVID-19 telephone MBS items
initial 93375-93376
80001
80011
91166-91167 91181-91182
additional 93312-93313 93331
93334
93332
93335
group n/a n/a n/a

Registered psychologist - FPS services

Sessions Face-to-face-and telehealth MBS items Temporary COVID-19 telehealth MBS items Temporary COVID-19 telephone MBS items
initial 93381-93382
80101
80111
91169-91170 91183-91184
additional 93316
93319
93351
93354
93352
93355
group n/a n/a n/a

Occupational therapists - FPS services

Sessions Face-to-face-and telehealth MBS items Temporary COVID-19 telehealth MBS items Temporary COVID-19 telephone MBS items
initial 93383-93384
80126
80136
91172-91173 91185-91186
additional 93322-93323 93357
93360
93358
93361
group n/a n/a n/a

Social workers - FPS services

Sessions Face-to-face-and telehealth MBS items Temporary COVID-19 telehealth MBS items Temporary COVID-19 telephone MBS items
Initial 93385-93386
80151
80161
91175-91176 91187-91188
additional 93326-93327 93363
93366
93364
93367
group n/a n/a n/a

Patient eligibility for allied mental health services

An eligible health professional must assess the patient as having a mental disorder. The following health professionals can refer a patient:

  • a health professional who is managing the patient under a GPMHTP, referred psychiatrist assessment and management plan or shared care plan
  • a psychiatrist
  • a paediatrician.

If you’re not sure if your patient is eligible you can contact the referring practitioner. You can continue to see patients who aren’t eligible, but they can’t access Medicare benefits for the services you provide.

Confirming allied health items and limits

You can use the MBS items online checker in HPOS to:

  • view and check patient eligibility based on their MBS history
  • check your own eligibility for claiming MBS items
  • check claiming conditions for MBS items.

Or you can call us to check:

  • if a patient has claimed a GPMHTP or a referral item
  • how many allied mental health services the patient has already received in the calendar year.

Once a patient has reached their service limit, you can keep seeing them but they can’t access Medicare benefits for your services.

Allied mental health professional reporting

Allied health professionals must provide a written report to the referring practitioner after completing each course of treatment.

The report should allow the referring practitioner to assess the patient’s need for more treatment services. It must include:

  • assessments carried out on the patient and, where relevant, the progress made
  • treatments provided
  • recommendations on future management of the patient’s disorder.

You don’t need to use an approved form to write a report.

Reporting when a patient doesn’t complete a course of treatment

If a patient doesn’t complete treatment, you need to write your report after the last service. If the patient returns later and completes the course of treatment, you’ll need to write another report.

Telehealth MBS items

Telehealth MBS items provide Medicare benefits for services provided via videoconferencing. Psychologists, occupational therapists and social workers can use these items.

Unlike other telehealth items, these items are stand-alone and do not have a derived fee structure.

The patient must:

  • have both a visual and audio link with the allied health professional
  • be located in an area within Modified Monash Model regions 4 to 7
  • be located at least 15km, by road, from the treating allied health professional at the time of consultation.

Allied health professionals can deliver all 20 eligible services in a calendar year via videoconferencing. These changes also remove the need for 1 face-to-face consultation within the first 4 videoconferencing sessions.

Group therapy services involve 6-10 patients and can be:

  • psychological therapy delivered via videoconference with a clinical psychologist
  • FPS services delivered via videoconference with a psychologist
  • FPS services delivered via videoconference with an occupational therapist
  • FPS services delivered via videoconference with a social worker.

Telehealth restrictions

Health professionals can’t claim telehealth attendance items for services provided to admitted hospital and hospital in-the-home patients.

To claim telehealth items there must be a visual and audio link between the patient and the health professional. Health professionals can’t claim this rebate if they can’t establish both a video and audio link with the patient. Health professionals can’t claim telehealth benefits for telephone or email consultations.

COVID-19 Temporary MBS Telehealth Services

Temporary COVID-19 MBS telehealth and telephone items are available until 30 June 2021. This will help reduce the risk of community transmission of COVID-19 and provide protection for patients and health care providers. These temporary items don’t have geographic limitations.

Case study: Individual services provided in 2 calendar years

You’re an occupational therapist specialising in focussed psychologies strategies.

Following a review with their GP, your patient is referred back to you for further treatment. The referral is for 10 additional focussed psychological strategies sessions.

By the end of December you’ve only provided 3 of these additional sessions. You can continue treatment in the next year using the same referral.

Under Better Access, patients can access 20 individual treatment sessions each calendar year. The remaining 7 sessions are carried over into the next year and will count towards the 20 sessions for that year.

Find out more about Referred Allied Health Services.

More information

We have eLearning modules that will help you to understand access to mental health services:

Read more about:

Contact us for MBS item interpretation.

Page last updated: 13 April 2021